DeLay resigns from Congress

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The Independent US

Ensnared in scandal, pursued by criminal investigation and facing an uphill battle to retain his seat, Tom DeLay yesterday bowed to the inevitable and announced that he will resign from the House of Representatives this summer.

Little more than a year ago Mr DeLay - known as "the Hammer" for his bruising and intimidating style - stood at the pinnacle of Congressional power. As the Republican majority leader in the House, he played a crucial part in securing passage of President BushÕs legislative agenda.

But he was always dogged by controversy, first over alleged ethics violations on Capitol Hill, then on account of his friendship with the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and finally with his indictment in September 2005 on charges of illegal fundraising in his home state of Texas.

That month he stepped down as majority leader. But he has been facing an increasingly tough battle to hang on to his House seat from suburban Houston. With Democrats threatening to capture the 15 seats needed to regain control of the House in November, the race had become a risk and distraction that Republicans could no longer afford.

"Voters of the 22nd District of Texas deserve a campaign about vital national issues that they care most about... and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me," Mr DeLay declared. "I refuse to allow the Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative campaign."

Yesterday Mr Bush insisted that the resignation would not hurt the Republican cause this autumn. "Our party will continue to succeed because we are the party of ideas," the President told reporters at the White House.

But that may be an overoptimistic assessment. Last week Tony Rudy, a former DeLay aide, admitted to conspiring with Mr Abramoff and others, and that he had engaged in illegal acts while working in the then majority leaderÕs office. Mr Abramoff is now co-operating with federal investigators in an influence peddling probe that may involve up to 20 Senators, Congressmen and senior aides.